Please note: My focus is on the introduced pests the Common Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum) and Leopard Slug (Limax maximus).
It’s important to know that snails are gregarious and home bodies. They like to hang out together and, unless the harbour has dried out, will return to the same communal spot. This is helpful for implementing control methods.
Let’s get the squeamish stuff out of the way - how to kill them. For those who physically can, use heavy soled boots on snails. Hard and fast. Don’t try this on slugs – simply too disturbing. For wimps like me, flick both snails and slugs to the chooks or drown them in beer. Not such a bad way to go. Covering them in salt dehydrates them and works but, in my opinion, has undertones of sadism.
Head out after dark with a bucket and a torch and start plucking. Wear gloves. Choose your preferred method of disposal.
Clean up your garden. Snails and slugs will congregate under old pots, pieces of wood, cardboard etc. Anywhere cool, with moisture and out of direct sunlight will entice them. This can also work in your favour. Set up traps. Wet down a plank of wood and place on two bricks. In the morning flatten it out and jump on it. *wince*
Beer traps. This is an effective and all-round lovely, albeit drowny, way for them to go. Bury a small container, say vegemite jar, with the edge at ground level and pour in the beer. Make sure the liquid is a couple of centimetres below the rim, so they need to tip themselves in to the offering. Drowned pests can then be gifted as jelly shots to the chooks or perhaps the neighbourhood birds would like a different perspective on their day. Responsible serving of alcohol would see them go into the green waste or buried. Snails and slugs are attracted to the yeast in the beer, so once you’ve noticed a decline in their number, set the traps away from your veggie patch. If you leave beer traps out, you’re inviting the neighbour’s snails to the party. You’ll need to refill with fresh beer every couple of days or after it rains. Snails and slugs don’t like diluted beer and I certainly don’t blame them. One beer trap per square metre initially, for extreme pest issues.
The culprit - Common Garden Snail
Zachi Evenor / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
Barriers should only be used as part of your offensive not your sole strategy unless you can maintain a band 20cm wide and over 1cm deep. It’s for this reason I’ve had little success using crushed eggshells, I simply don’t have enough shells. Sawdust, diatomaceous earth and coarse sand will work – while dry. And due to their mucus ooze, both snails and slugs can cross these barriers if they’re desperate.
If you’re going to resort to commercial pellets, please do your research. I use Certified Organic iron-based pellets when I’m desperate in my nursery. Slugs and snails eat the pellets, lose their appetite and crawl off to die. It’s still awful but at least the pellets will dissolve into the soil as a harmless iron addition.
Snail and slugs prefer stealth night-time raids in a wet garden. You can curb their attack by watering in the mornings. Giving your plants a deep drink in the AM will ensure they’ve dried out during the day and less enticing to snails.
You’ll need to be especially vigilant while your vegetable seedlings are young. Snails and slugs adore tender young shoots and will decapitate all of your seedlings in one night.
If you’ve handled snails and especially slugs, wash your hands thoroughly because, well, their mucus feels gross. But more importantly, snails and slugs can carry Rat lungworm; a roundworm parasite found in rat faeces that can cause serious illness and in extremely rare cases, death.
Other introduced pest species include: Orchid Snail, Asian Tramp Snail, Apple Snail (Aquarium escapee)
We need to be mindful that we’re only eradicating pest species. When in doubt, check it out.
Australia is home to over 2500 species of land snails (and slugs) and only 800 of these have currently been named. Their colour, habit and size vary greatly. Some have truly beautiful shells - all of them are interesting and essential for healthy ecosystems. Let me introduce you to a few of our own:
We have a native snail with “size issues”. Their shells are too small to retract into so they’re considered semi-slugs. I feel a bit sorry for the Fine-Speckled Semi-Slug (Stanisicarion virens). If I were their Mum, I’d encourage them to tell the other kids that they’re ‘mid-evolution”.
The Glossy Turban Carnivorous Snail (Terrycarlessia turbanata) is not a dude to mess with in the land of leaf litter. This dude has a cold stare. Carnivorous and occasionally cannibalistic.
Steve Irwin has a tree snail named after him. This rare stunning snail has the Latin name Crikey steveirwini. This is absolutely true and pretty bloody cool. Steve Irwin Tree snail is only found in small pockets of Northern Queensland wet tropical rainforest, over 1000ft altitude.
Considering there are so many unnamed species, surely a girl with determination and imagination could find a way to have one named after her too…